“Do not speak badly of yourself, for the warrior that is inside you hears your words and is lessened by them. You are strong and you are brave. There is a nobility of spirit within you. Let it grow.”- anon.
When doing anything we care about, we are never free from the threat of doubt. Wether it’s playing volleyball, networking, going on a solo vacation, or trying something new, it’s almost impossible to act without dealing with a voice in your head that asks, “are you sure?” Are you sure you’re good enough/smart enough/strong enough/brave enough to do this? And the answer should be yes, yes I am sure, regardless of how strongly you believe that answer.
My first “ah-ha” moment concerning doubt was a long time ago when I was first starting out on the international circuit. In the first event of 2007, my first Olympic qualification event ever and first FIVB with Jen Kessy, we flew overnight from Miami to Paris and had to play the next day. Doubt engulfed me- I didn’t get enough sleep, my body is so stiff- can I do this? This is such a big deal- do I belong here? We lost handily in the country quota. Sidenote: spending a week in Paris was not a bad consolation prize! But, my point is, after that loss, I learned something. I picked up The Alchemist and just devoured it. My biggest take away was that if you’re determined to do something, and work your butt off to achieve your goals, you have to believe the Universe is going to help you. If you go into something…say you’re serving, you’re on the back line and you can think- “I hope this goes in”, or “I can’t afford to miss this serve”, you’re doubting yourself, not empowering yourself, and many would argue are more likely to make a mistake with this kind of thinking. If, instead, you’re back there thinking, “I”m going to give the other team my best serve, and I know if I have this energy the Universe is more likely to help me” or something along those lines, i.e. acting with calculated confidence, many would agree that you are more likely to succeed at said endeavor.
After Paris and reading the Alchemist, we went to Stavanger, Norway for the next tournament- a Grand Slam (equivalent to today’s 5 stars) and became the first team out of a country quota and the lowest seeded team ever to win a World Tour event. I have to believe that change in mentality played a big part, you can’t get two more drastically different results than that!
So in other words, if doubt is going to make it less likely that you do something successfully, you might as well believe in yourself. Believing you can do something successfully will only help you accomplish what you set out to do. There is still a chance you will make a mistake, probability-wise there is always a chance you will make a mistake, but if thinking and acting confidently is going to make that mistake less likely, wouldn’t it make more sense to think that way? Therefore, there’s no point in doubting yourself while performing.
And I want to make clear that it definitely won’t feel natural at first. It’s a ‘what came first?’- the chicken or the egg- type of deal. Science supports the idea that when you act in line with how you want to feel physiologically, your brain will start to believe that’s really how you feel. For example, if you want to feel happier, smile more wether you genuinely want to or not. If you want to be more confident, pull your shoulders back, keep your head high and speak positively to yourself, your brain will follow suit. Refuse to let that little voice plant the seed of doubt in your head, and if it does speak up (which it will) learn to dismiss it and choose more powerful thoughts. This is a habit and a practice, do it over and over and over. (Meditation is HUGE for training yourself how to do this.)
I must add, however that I believe there is a time and place for doubt (but it’s is not while competing). Doubt during preparation, or in early phases of planning, keeps us from becoming overconfident. It drives us to study more diligently, push through fatigue, and train harder, it keeps us vigilant. If we prepare for what we are concerned might go wrong and feel good about our contingency plans, we will feel more prepared and therefore more authentically confident as we approach competition, or any test in our life. It’s important to not let that doubt overstay it’s welcome though, once it’s served it’s purpose it’s time to transition into building confidence. And when doubt does pop up you can think of it as a tool that simply alerts you to something you should maybe pay a little more attention to, but then kick it out again and choose those helpful confident thoughts once again.